Tag Archive | Jesse Moynihan

“Normal Man” Review

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Original Airdate: May 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

I guess it’s only appropriate the essential conclusion to Magic Man’s character arc corresponds with Jesse Moynihan’s final storyboarding effort in the series. While not Magic Man’s creator, Jesse paved the way for MM’s character by fleshing him out well beyond his initial archetype and in turn ended up creating one of AT’s most complex characters. Moynihan’s love and passion for the character really shines through in episodes like Sons of Mars and You Forgot Your Floaties, of which are two of my favorite episodes primarily because of how much Moynihan’s heart and soul was placed into them. While Normal Man lacks the headiness of those episodes (though, legend has it that this was supposed to be a much, much darker episode), it makes up for it by being both hilarious and deeply introspective. Normal Man works off of what Bun Bun set up in a lot of ways: the idea and theme of change. While Bun Bun dealt primarily with changes happening over time and within relationships, Normal Man mostly deals with a deeply interesting question: can shitty people truly change? And if so, does it make up for all of the horrible things they’ve done in the past? Normal Man argues both yes and no; a person is able to change their ways and start a new life, but only after gaining the respect and trust of others, which can often be just as difficult a journey.

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While not as experimental, the initial opening of the episode is about as Moynihan-y as it gets: Tiny Manticore, at the command of Normal Man, sets out to rescue his brother Glob from space, after his dissemination in Astral Plane. It’s all good fun, well-animated, and sets a very tense mood once Tiny Manticore decides to take control, but it all sets up for one huge problem I have with the premise of this episode. Now, I do really enjoy Normal Man overall, but there’s one recurring issue that really just rubs me the exact wrong way every time I watch it, and I’m surprised that no one ever talks about it. Normal Man and all other characters in the episode refer to the GGGG head as “Glob,” but… that’s not Glob. Glob was voiced by Tom Gammill in both Sons of Mars and Astral Plane, while Tom Kenny typically voices Gob. So… what is Kenny doing voicing Glob in this one? Well, my money’s on the fact that they simply couldn’t get Gammill to provide his voice for the episode, and considering that Kenny already provides his voice for two other characters in this episode, it was the easiest option at hand. On top of that, they likely thought nobody would notice due to the fact that Kenny does provide the voice for one of the four heads. Well, I NOTICED ADVENTURE TIME. YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME?

Ahem. To be honest, I know this probably seems like a really overblown nitpick, but it still bugs the hell out of me. If the show wants to establish this really convincing overarching lore, then they really can’t expect me to look over this as a simple mistake. It’s actually something that also happens in You Forgot Your Floaties, when MM refers to GGGG as his sibling “Glob” followed by Tom Kenny’s lines. I do wonder if Glob is just generally the universal nickname for the “G” man, because I’m pretty sure everyone tends to neglect to remember the other G’s to begin with. When keeping that in mind, I guess it’s somewhat justified, though I overall think there needs to be stricter rules for writing the character in general, because I feel as though Glob is handled waaay too loosely to the point where the staff forgets that he’s essentially four entities in one body. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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Anyways, the scenes to follow this convergence are a lot of fun. This is actually the second time this season that Finn has treated Jake like a straight-up dog (the first was Don’t Look when Finn utters, “what is it, boy?”) and I’m wondering if Finn subtlely picks up on these traditional behaviors whenever he enters the Farmworld. It’s funny to see him essentially wanting to adopt more humanistic behaviors, as Jake is pretty resentful to the idea.

It’s also funny to see how the boys truly resent Normal Man, and even nearly kill him. You don’t really blame them for being this way either, because the last time they even saw the guy, he turned them into food products and practically left them for dead. It’s cool how Finn takes on the responsibility likely due to the sole fact that Glob is involved. Besides being a very important figure overall, I have a feeling that Finn feels as though he almost owes it to Glob for having a part in his sacrifice back in Astral Plane. Also, Finn’s dad was the reason Glob was demolished. That probably had some moralistic factor in it as well. One of the nice smaller details in this episode is that Finn begins using his Root Sword again! It only comes back for this episode and the next, but it’s really cool that the show remembered that it even existed, while also remembering that it was one of Finn’s only swords to not get busted or altered in one way or another. It’s a nice little Easter egg for longtime viewers, of which are pretty much AT’s main audience by this point in time.

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What follows is classic Adventure Time; Wild Trap Mountain is about as fun a location can get. The mountain is jam-packed with tons of terrific foes, like the “Weekend Survivalists,” that one dude that NOBODY messes with (his description on the wiki reads “simply a dude that no one messes with.” It kills me), Waking Dream Demons, and of course, the Squirrel that hates Jake. I’m usually not a fan of the Squirrel outside of his debut episode in The Duke of Nuts, but man, the joke somehow manages to be way funnier the third time than it was the second time. Even after Normal Man explains who he is, Jake is equally surprised when the Squirrel reintroduces himself. It’s just priceless–that poor Squirrel only wants the satisfaction of attention. The Wild Trap Mountain journey in general is executed just perfectly. I love how it slowly builds from a tense, quiet crawl into a frantic, energetic speed-run to the top. Everything goes unimaginably wrong in the span of seconds and everything is resolved in the matter of seconds, in a way where the episode really doesn’t compensate for whether you’re even comprehending every moment or not. It’s just great. It’s also worth noting that Finn nearly stabs himself when being possessed by a parasite, which is the third time this is alluded this season, and the third time alluded to in a Jesse and Sam episode! It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that those instances were included.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, the episode goes from energetic and thrilling to just plain hilarious. The back-and-forths between Finn, Jake, Normal Man, Glob, and Tiny are just great; from Tiny Manticore noting Normal Man’s naturally insincere sounding voice, to “two boomerangs,” to “hang on like hot snot!” this is one episode that’s relentless with jokes and one-liners happening one after the other, in the best possible way necessary. The episode does save for one soft, genuine moment as Normal Man apologizes to his brother for being a “bean show” for hundreds of years. It’s a unique situation because, while Normal Man can’t really be blamed entirely for his behavior, because magic had a huge effect on his general cognition, but he isn’t really free of blame either. He is the person who nearly killed our main heroes, threw everyone in Mars under the bus (a hilarious gag, by the way), and betrayed his brother. It does show, however, that Normal Man truly is a normal man, and like any human (or humanoid, in this case), he does express remorse over his past behavior and acknowledges his faults, rather than trying to ignore that they ever happened. The way the brothers reconcile is sweet, and shows the optimistic viewpoint that, yes, people can change and repent if they truly make an effort to better themselves in the process. While the citizens of Mars aren’t as impressed, Normal Man’s at least left with the confidence that, if he truly proves himself to be the nice, reformed person that he wants to be seen as, he’ll have no problem adjusting to his current lifestyle.

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Normal Man isn’t quite the deep, analytical expedition I would expect from Moynihan’s AT finale, but it does possess many elements of some of his greatest entries: mythological aspects, character development, and bizarre side character cameos, with a hint of hilarity. This really is a nice wrap-up for Normal Man’s character (even though this isn’t the last we see of him) and I’m truly glad that Moynihan essentially got to see his hard work come full circle. I really did love the guy as a writer; while he was often controversial in both his writing style and his general demeanor, there was never a doubt in my mind that Jesse wasn’t putting every single bit of his blood, sweat, and tears into each individual episode that he worked on. While I’m pretty fond of Tom Herpich as a writer overall, I don’t think there’s a single artist or writer on Adventure Time, or any animated series in general, quite as ambitious and personalized as Moynihan. I actually interviewed him a few years back after he left the show, and while he has a reputation for being pretentious among AT fans and non-fans alike, he really seemed like a humble, thoughtful dude in his responses. To end this blog with a quick tribute, I leave with you an interesting take on why Jesse thinks AT is special and different in general, per our interview.

“I don’t know really. Sometimes I felt like we were working on something very special and different, based on critical feedback. But other times I couldn’t figure out how to measure that against other shows and the feedback they were getting. I came to realize that this specialness was arbitrary and couldn’t really be gauged by any reliable standard. The only thing I could rely on was my own internal experience of working on the show, and my feeling of growing as a writer during my time there. So yeah, for me it felt very special and different. For the rest of the world of individual tastes, I really have no idea. A fan could come up to me and say how great Adventure Time is, and in the same sentence tell me how great something else is that I don’t value so much.”

Also, can we take a brief moment to appreciate that LSP and Lemongrab went on a date together? It’s a crack-pairing from heaven, I tell’s ya!

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Favorite line: “You turned me into a giant starfish!” “You turned me into a flaming pile of garbage!”

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“I Am a Sword” Review

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

Couple of announcements before we start: I’ll be gaining back some of my free-time as we approach the month of December, so expect semi-daily reviews to return shortly. In fact, next week I plan on covering four whole episodes: Bun Bun, Normal ManElemental, and Five Short Tables. Consider it my Thanksgiving Day treat!

Secondly, the application for the Animation Podcast I’m starting up is still open till mid-December. As I mentioned, I’ll be advertising the application on this blog sporadically throughout the next couple weeks. You can apply to be a co-host on the Podcast HERE.

Finally, you can expect the release schedule of the final 50 episodes to be posted on this blog within the next few weeks. The schedule will be strictly estimated; I may jump ahead or behind (unlikely) depending on what occurs in my life. Though I will try and follow it as closely as possible, and I will eventually open up a survey where all of you readers can suggest possible “top” lists and ideas for post-blog content. Alrighty, I’ve rambled on long enough, onto the review!

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The concept of the Finn Sword has always been a curious one for myself: is the Finn inside of the Finn Sword the real Finn? Is the Finn within the Finn Sword a real, living entity, or some sort of a remnant of Finn’s memories? What is the true connection between Finn and the Finn Sword? Some of these questions are sort of answered in I Am a Sword and beyond, but other questions are left purposely vague. The connection with Finn and Finn Sword mostly exists on a metaphorical level, as their surface level relationship is not only difficult to understand as a viewer, but for those who surround Finn as well. Even those closest to Finn, like Jake, just dismiss it as borderline materialism. Though, the strong point of the episode is that it makes it apparent that this is a deeply personal issue for Finn, but we’re still willing to sympathize with him for those metaphorical reasons mentioned. I Am a Sword explores the connection between a boy and his sword quite interestingly, in ways that are as heady as Jesse Moynihan has ever been, with added bouts of hilarity from both Moynihan and Sam Alden.

The episode opens with one of my favorite shots in the series, as Finn and Jake roam the span of a wooden bridge as the sun sets in the background. This image is so impactful that 90% of all online new sources included it when announcing that Adventure Time was ending back in 2016. Even I’m guilty, heh. In general, the moment serves as a nice introduction to the main story at hand and sets things up for the remainder of the episode when Finn accidentally launches the Finn Sword into the unknown. While a bit of a foolish decision for him to make, Finn has never been the most… careful person. He’s constantly throwing himself into the face of danger, whether it be to save his former girlfriend from burning out, the fate of humanity from Orgalorg, or even just proving a point to his brother. This is one of Finn’s major characteristics, and it certainly doesn’t make him unlikable, but it’s worth some reevaluation in regards to how this behavior affects the people around him, or even himself. I do wonder how exactly the Finn within the Finn Sword operates logically, in the sense that the Finn Sword is very clearly disapproving of Finn’s behavior. Since the Finn Sword knew Finn’s last name was Mertens back in Dentist, I do wonder if the Finn within the sword operates more on Finn’s subconscious feelings and behavioral ticks more than anything. Perhaps part of Finn knows that he shouldn’t be partaking in such risky behavior, but is compelled more by his desires to have fun and live life in an adventurous sense instead, while the Finn Sword has no purpose beyond being an alternate version of Finn, so he’s merely there to guide himself into methods of a less stressful lifestyle. Obviously, that method ended up failing.

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Finn’s feelings of guilt can easily be attributed to this neglect to care for himself and the people around him in a meaningful way, of which can be identified as a result of Finn’s trauma through his experiences with his father, that are mostly notable recently in Beyond the Grotto and Don’t Look. While Beyond the Grotto has Finn recognize that he was mistreating the Sea Lard, Don’t Look involves Finn’s ultimate guilt in not caring for those even closer to him. I Am a Sword takes it one step further by showing Finn’s guilt for mistreating perhaps the closest person to him: virtually, himself. The thing that Finn fears most is, like I’ve mentioned, treating others in a way that his father treated him. While I think that Finn is entirely too hard on himself with this comparison, it does bring up an interesting idea about Finn’s growth as he enters into his late-teen years: how much of himself does he have to sacrifice in order to be the person he wants to be? I’d be open to the argument that he doesn’t have to change anything about himself, but it’s really apparent with practically anyone that people do need to change in order to grow up, whether actively or on a subconscious level. Not necessarily in a drastic, persona shifting way, but in the sense of shaping your character and personality around the desires and moralistic attributes that one does possess. For years, we’ve watched Finn throw himself and the people around him into various different dangerous obstacles and trials, but only now is he discovering the possible consequences. While he’ll always be an adventurer at heart, his main desires and goals in present time are to be as morally astute as he can possibly be, and his recklessness is finally starting to cause major issues in his life. Of course, there’s a happy medium between the occasional thrill and being vigilant when doing so, but Finn first has to learn when to think and analyze before he seeks out such a sense of entertainment.

Finn’s moral dilemma within his own self can easily be elaborated on through Finn Sword’s experiences with Bandit Princess. Finn Sword is forced against his will to partake in illegal activities and even kill/harm other people as a result. Finn himself feels as if he’s forced to hurt other people in his actions because of the guilt that has overcome him in relation to his own personality. Finn fears that he’ll be compelled to hurt himself and more people in the future because of the way he is, as Finn Sword feels because he has no control over what he is: a sword.

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May I also take this opportunity to shoutout what a terrific one-shot villain Bandit Princess is? Not only does she possess a fantastic design, but she’s voiced by none other than Amy Sedaris, of whom I adore from a comedic standpoint, and also for her voicework. What makes Bandit Princess a terrific villain is not only that she’s hilariously hammy and boasts a terrific design, but she’s also legitimately threatening in a way that a lot of Adventure Time villains aren’t. Bandit Princess is actually shown to kill people on-screen, which is primarily a rarity for the series. Of course, it’s handled in the most PG way possible, with Mayor Cameron’s (of whom I never expected to see again)  body finding its way back to his head, but of course, there’s also the rich man and the guard of the bank, of whom we never see again and can only assumed to be dead. With a show that’s filled with threatening space gods and deities, it’s amazing that a character who is virtually powerless can be so menacing with the simple use of an item.

It’s one thing this episode specializes with in its theme: the power that items have over others. Bandit Princess achieves power from weapons, the spiky people achieve power from having money, and even a tertiary character like Spear Bear bases his entire identity around his sole possession. Of course, I could go into great detail about this overarching theme, but I’m gonna leave that topic for someone who does my job better than I ever could, Uncivilized Elk! This video hits it out of the park with everything that this theme aims to accomplish. Check it out if you haven’t! Also interesting to note: Bandit Princess was originally supposed to be portrayed by Penny from City of Thieves, as seen in this concept art. This is a callback that I’m actually glad we didn’t get, because I overall really enjoy Bandit Princess as a character, and feel as though Penny simply could not take on this role in an enjoyable fashion. It does make me wonder if Bandit Princess is the technical ruler of the City of Thieves, or if it’s a self-proclaimed title to begin with.

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Speaking of callbacks, this episode is riddled with them, in the best way necessary. Not only does it help contribute to that overarching theme I had mentioned earlier, but it’s also refreshing to use pre-existing locations as a method of exploring the Land of Ooo. While it’s always nice to visit new territory and landscapes, it’s also cool to see that these tertiary locations are a legitimate part of Ooo, and that Finn and Jake are able to access them at any point. Though not intentional, I think it’s even cooler that Moynihan and Alden chose perhaps the two most disposable episodes (Gut Grinder and Box Prince) to revisit, which shows that even the most forgettable AT entries still exist and have importance within this world.

The moments of hilarity within this episode are too many to name. Right up there with Joshua & Margaret Investigations, this episode has a plethora of funny one-liners. Of my favorites are Jake listing off the various different things that give Finn nightmares (of which are too high in number by this point), Finn and Jake’s back-and-forth about what happens to decapitated chickens, and one line that I still find so hilarious that I’m just gonna leave it at the bottom of the page to (hopefully) leave you with a laugh after you’re done reading. It’s really amazing to me that heady writers like Jesse and even Sam are, without a doubt, the best comedy writers from this seasons. Flute Spell, I Am a Sword, and Normal Man all play around with some rather intricate stories, but are ultimately just as hilarious as they are thought-provoking. One thing Alden gets down pretty well is the smaller details; Finn helping BMO get a staple out from the stapler was just adorable, and the game Finn ends up playing is actually created by Charlie! Look at Jake, being a good dad and supporting his kids’ endeavors.

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Love how this shot mirrors Finn & Jake looking over the Spiky Village in Gut Grinder.

What the episode ultimately boils down to is Finn making the same mistake that he made at the beginning of the episode: trusting his impulses, rather than his methods of logical thinking. While he may see it as a choice of pride, Finn is enrolling himself in yet another reckless decision where he simply does not have the upperhand, and he actively refuses to let Jake help him out. Instead of confronting the issue at hand by addressing what went wrong, Finn thinks he’s doing right by making the situation his sole responsibility, but ignores what got him there to begin with. While I call bullshit on a golf club being his weapon of choice (he still has the root sword, and we even saw Nothung within his treasury!) it’s a great item that’s used to represent how he truly didn’t think this situation out to begin with, and had it not been for his grass sword, he likely would’ve been toast. But the grass sword can also be a key indicator of Finn’s lack of control, as it’s the finishing blow that destroys the Finn sword completely.

It’s funny, because I remember when this episode first aired, people were convinced that Finn would be in a coma until the Finn Sword was revived. While I was never under that impression, it is easy to see how affected Finn is by the death of his Finn Sword, and how he was always true in his efforts to inform others about the special connection. That connection was always legitimate, and Finn is now left with the terrible sadness of essentially “losing himself” by not being able to trust in his own actions. Season seven has been great with refusing to stray away from Finn’s own personal issues; while season six could easily be seen as a culmination of everything that Finn has learned so far in his life, season seven shows that, even with the potential for resolution, life continues to throw curve balls regardless. As BMO so eloquently states:

You mean some people are just pure city sidewalk boom-boom from a rat donk and that’s all there is to it?”

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The statement is there to show that there will always be shitty people who do shitty things to others, but Jake’s unsure response shows that there’s something even more threatening than not trusting others, and that’s of course the lack of trust in one’s self. Finn has been faced with shitty people for a majority of his life, and while he’s always been able to cope with that, he fails to cope with specific issues within himself. And the world will continue to be wooly-booly for himself, unless he’s able to regain that trust and self-control back. While Finn is stuck with repressing his issues for now, we’re left with one haunting image that shows how this issue is fair from over: a green glow emitting from the Finn Sword. Finn’s battle with his own identity has only just begun!

I Am a Sword is not only deeply hilarious, but also takes a look at the larger picture with how Finn is dealing with his own insecurities at this point in his maturity. This episode shows that, while he’s learned a lot, he still has a long way to go in his own personal growth, and that relates entirely to how he views himself and treats the people around him. It also does a terrific job of exploring one of the most complex relationships in the entire show, that will only continue to grow in complexity as time goes on.

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Favorite line: “I was born with rabies and my parents didn’t love me ’cause they both had mono!”

“Flute Spell” Review

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Original Airdate: March 12, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Sam Alden & Jesse Moynihan

Flute Spell is remembered for being the “Huntress Wizard X Finn” episode, as one would expect it to be, but honestly, I think this episode makes for a really great star appearance of Jake. Throughout the exploration of Finn’s character and his relationships in the past few years, Jake has typically remained as a bystander. He helped to coach Finn through his crush on Princess Bubblegum in earlier years, and initially assisted him in securing a relationship with Flame Princess, but otherwise, he hasn’t been very involved in this aspect of Finn’s life. Some of these reasons may include the fact that he unintentionally had a part in Finn’s breakup with Flame Princess, or perhaps that he simply can’t relate to Finn’s underlying turmoil. Regardless, he does his best to help Finn connect with Huntress Wizard and to build a healthy, honest relationship between the two, and it’s really sweet.

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Not to mention Jake is thoroughly hilarious in this episode. In the first 10 seconds, we start out with the amusingly jolly song “My Name is Jake,” which is not only a great platform to callback several old characters and concepts (i.e. APTWE and Maja, the villagers from The Visitor, and Jake constantly being faced with Death) but also epitomizes Jake as a character. While I’m thoroughly invested in all of the character drama that this series has to offer, it’s so delightful to have one main character that has no surface level issues. Jake has a terrific relationship with his girlfriend, lives with his brother and his best friends, has five children to spend his time with (even if it is to T.V.’s dismay), and is always faced with a plethora of fun adventures to take on. He’s certainly not without his own personal problems, but there’s no boiling turmoil that threatens Jake’s psyche. He’s simply a carefree dude that is able to live a fulfilling life because he has a terrific support system and is meeting all of his personal needs. Remember this bit, because it’s important later on!

Of course, Jake’s concerns aren’t limited to his own well-being, but the well-being of his brother, of whom went through some deep shit in the past year. The real fun of this one is that Jake not only makes for a fun third-wheel, but also kind of takes on the role of a shipping-invested fan. The main story of this one is practically just Jesse Moynihan living out a ship that he’s always wanted to see (and I don’t necessarily mean that as an insult) so having Jake make all of these wild guesses about Finn’s new love interest and being super invested in everything going on to the point of interrupting important conversations is just hilarious. I have to assume there actually is a Finn X Future Me-Mow fanfiction out there.

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On the other side of things, it is cool to see Finn in the dating scene again, and his maturity definitely shows. Of course, as Shelby eloquently states earlier in the episode, “he’s just trying to be careful this time.” When it comes to Finn’s character flaws, nothing reigns more apparent than his issues with ladies. While it’s a huge step that he’s even pursuing someone that isn’t Bubblegum or Flame Princess, and that he’s not being a giant creep about it, he still isn’t being honest in his intentions. Of course, it’s hard to blame him this time around. He was hurt, and he hurt others in the past, and he’s not fully ready to relive the pain that he once experienced. It’s good that he’s at least trying to pursue a relationship instead of just holding onto that pain forever, but a lot of his issues in this episode stem from the fact that he doesn’t just tell Huntress Wizard upfront about how he feels for her. Even if he has good intentions and ends up helping her in the end, he’s simply not being fair to himself in playing matchmaker. Though it’s hard not to be charmed by his overall behavior, and the fact that he is essentially willing to take pain if it means helping out a girl that he has feelings for. Whatta bro.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s no surprise that Jesse Moynihan loves inserting Huntress Wizard into episodes as often as he can, and that the fanbase in general has taken a particular liking to her ever since Reign of Gunters came along. Some might see it as pandering to the fanbase that this random, insignificant character is suddenly made into Finn’s love interest, but I dunno, I never minded it. Huntress Wizard is a cool and mysterious character with a competent VA at the helm (aka Jenny Slate; HW was previously voiced by Maria Bamford prior to this episode). A lot of the charm of HW’s character comes from that mystery element, though she acts this way for a purpose as revealed at the end of the episode. In general, a lot of the fun with HW comes from her stellar abilities and the way she interacts with the environment. From her ability to change into a tree or turn her clothes in leaves as she pleases, to her almost completely primitive living environment, she really is completely enigmatic from both a physical and psychological level.

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The chemistry between Finn and HW is a lot of fun as well. I love how their first interaction involves Huntress Wizard nearly impaling Finn’s nose with an arrow, and how Finn isn’t at all put off by that. Finn’s grass sword is used to its fullest abilities by having an active role in the story without it necessarily being about the grass sword, but just the thorn in general. That’s an idea that’s pretty unique to this episode, an adds an interesting element in how the grass sword operates outside of battle. Despite it being a curse, it does have mystical elements that really don’t give it proper defining traits, of which is what likely draws in Huntress Wizard so much. Also, the grass arm is apparently “really shreddy and busy.” Eyuck. The back-and-forth between HW and Finn is enjoyable, especially how it manages to make it obvious that Finn wants this way more than Huntress Wizard, but without making him overbearing or slimy. He has some really funny moments as he tries to look cool in front of Huntress Wizard, namely his denial that he smells bad during a high speed chase towards a vicious boar.

One aspect of this episode that does strike my curiosity is the identity of HW’s former mentor and possible love interest, the Spirit of the Forest, of whom looks and sounds exactly like the Dream Warrior from Who Would Win? It’s an… odd cameo to say the least, and one that has never had a ton of conclusive exposition aside from this episode, though I’m guessing each realm of the world has some sort of round, Matthew Broderick-like warrior that watches over a specific dominion. I don’t really have a problem with the Spirit of the Forest’s role in this episode, but I think it’s kind of weird that this is the only other Dream Warrior clone introduced in the series, because I feel like it makes things slightly confusing. Are there just two randomly identical beings that watch over entirely different facets of existence? Are they brothers? Are they the same person? I do wish this was elaborated on a bit more, and that there were more Broderick Warrior characters introduced for consistency, but as it stands, it’s just kind of a weird bit of lore that I’m not sure was completely necessary.

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His role, however, does add for some interesting developments in HW’s character, as it’s revealed that she’s just as afraid of being hurt by feelings as Finn is. HW and Finn, while dealing with similar problems, are very different. Finn went through some tough shit in the past, though he wants to learn how to move on from it and to regain physical love in his life. HW romanticizes with her own sadness, and believes in the idea that loving someone else is “becoming soft” and throwing away her own independence. Thus, she falls into the pit of MMS, because she believes that finding the solution to the very cause of what makes her sad and mad to begin with will erase her purpose and make her less significant in the world. Huntress Wizard admits to having feelings for Finn as well, though she acknowledges that “exceptional beasts like us cannot fall in love. That is the secret of ordinary people.” I’ve seen this viewpoint a lot from creatives, and admittedly feel the same way at times: that falling in love means sacrificing your skills of individuality and surrendering one’s self to the ordinary trials of life. It’s profound, but it’s made even better by Jake’s retort of, “uh, that’s real dumb.” The beginning of the episode showcases what an exciting and pleasurable life one can have when taking on the “normal” standards of life. Jake’s story certainly isn’t by the books in the case of social norms, but he’s able to live in a satisfactory way to his best abilities by meeting his own desires and contributing to his own well-being, as well as that of others. Jake can’t get behind HW’s mentality, because everything he’s ever loved and cared about has come from being a “normie.” Finn mentions he agrees, though it’s unclear who he’s even agreeing with. My money is definitely on HW, as Finn likely buys into HW’s same notions. It could also be the fact that Finn might acknowledge that he simply still isn’t ready to date yet. Even after all he’s been through, Finn still is afraid to love as carelessly as he once did, and though he wants to, it will take some time before he’s fully ready to move on from that fear of loss.

While girls come and go, Finn’s brother certainly does not, as he and Jake share a very sweet moment together at the end. As the Spirit of the Forest mentioned before, infatuation is easily dismantled when it comes to the true intentions and desires of two individuals, in which the relationship practically fades into obscurity. Finn is bummed out, but mirrors the Spirit’s line of “attracting forces come and go,” as he chooses to acknowledge that the connection simply wasn’t worth moving forward with (for the time being) and realizes that the next attracting force isn’t far from the future.

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Tying in with the past couple entries, Flute Spell is really rad on a design aspect. The forest looks terrific in this episode, specifically Huntress Wizard’s house (essentially a cliff under a tree, wink wink) which is just awesome. It’s really well lit when it comes to the nighttime and morning scenes, and the sheer amount of detail inside is terrific. I also really love the design of that boar, who not only looks superb, but is animated in a really stellar way. I love how he’s essentially just a thunder cloud, and how his cloudy behind trails while he runs. It really just made me wonder why there’s never been a “thunder boar” Pokemon. And hey, Finn’s immune to electricity for the rest of the series now!

But yeah, Flute Spell is pretty great. It explores a pretty fascinating relationship that is made entirely fun through an interesting story, some enticing animation, and most of all, Jake’s thoroughly entertaining role. If I had to criticize one thing, it’d be that I feel as though there are too many cameos and references to past episodes. The ones I liked the most were essentially Easter eggs, like the Villagers and Jake’s bird form from Food Chain, but I felt that the Spirit of the Forest was a bit strange on some levels, and Science Cat really, really did not have to be in this episode. Aside from his somewhat funny bit of exposition about Sword Shark, who tragically passed away, he’s kind of just there for the sake of being an obscure cameo. But otherwise, Flute Spell is a ton of fun, and does well with a storyline that I would have typically only imagined being apart of someone’s fanfiction.

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Favorite line: “First off, I’m a great fighter. And I’m especially agile when I’m nude, so good luck.”

“Crossover” Review

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Original Airdate: January 28, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Sam Alden

The wish-world that Finn created in Finn the Human and Jake the Dog was a realm that I never expected to be revisited. I figured that the reality was instantly reversed when Jake wished for him and Finn to be back home safely in Ooo, so this plot point in particular was one that definitely flew far off of my radar. So, when I discovered that this episode would feature a return to the Farmworld dimension, I was cautiously optimistic. Optimistic, because the Farmworld bits in Jake the Dog were easily the strongest parts of the episode, but cautious because I wasn’t really sure I actually wanted a definitive resolution to this conflict. Luckily, Jesse Moynihan and Sam Alden manage to pull off exactly that while executing it in an absolutely stunning, tense, and hilarious way.

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I have very few criticisms of this one, but I’ll open up with what I think is possibly the most questionable aspect of Crossover: why did it begin in media res? I’m not necessarily saying that it’s a problem, or detracts from the quality of the episode in anyway, but I do kind of wonder what it actually adds to the episode. Granted, it’s a cool opening, and sets an ominous tone for the episode, as well as a sense of curiosity. But the episode returns to the exact same scene only a minute and a half later, and it doesn’t feel like the beginning was inserted to really save time on any aspect. It’s surely strange, but again, it’s not something I actively dislike, I just find it slightly distracting.

Though, that may just be do to the fact that the rest of the episode is mostly fantastic. This one truly has a star-studded cast, with Finn, Jake, Prismo, Ice Finn, and the Lich at the helm, along with side roles from BMO, Bil- er, Bobby, and Big Destiny. It feels like a big episode in just how crucial the main characters are in terms of their ranks in the universe: Jake and Finn are the epitome of good, the Lich is the epitome of evil, Prismo is the guardian/overseer, and Ice Finn is at the center of it all. It really helps to add to that sense of direness when some of the most powerful beings in the series are present, and their roles are certainly not wasted.

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Prismo returns once more (in Kumail Nanjiani’s LAST performance as the character; sad, ain’t it?) mostly to deliver much needed exposition, but also to act as the cautious “jedi master” type. His concern and wary nature that Finn and Jake must exterminate Ice Finn in his way and his way only once again adds to that tension on whether everything is going to end up alright in the end. And of course, his concerns actually do make sense. At first, I was kind of like, “why the fuck would Prismo care about this?” but he’s the one who technically created it to begin with. Thus, he’s responsible for the nature of said universe and how it directly affects the existence of other universes. It is curious, however, of who his boss truly is. Given that it’s never directly explained at any point in the series, I do wonder if Prismo’s boss was ever intended to be apart of the series, though the staff was never permitted the time to incorporate said storyline. My money’s on this guy, of whom Adam Muto created conceptual drawings for, but never actually made it into the series.

The way Finn views Ice Finn is certainly unique and interesting, and definitely ties into his development and growth over time. Call me out on it if you will, but I feel as if past Finn would simply go along with Prismo’s plan, and end up destroying what he would think is merely “an evil version of himself” in the process. Here, Finn is much more sympathetic and understanding. Not only has his view on evil beings changed over time, but he also likely empathizes with the Ice King more, since he realizes what little control he has over the crown. This also ties into Finn’s refusal to diss the Ice King as the series goes on, as he understands the pain he experiences and wants to do everything he can to minimize that pain as much as possible. Finn’s view of himself as well has adapted as well. In a way, Finn essentially “helps himself” in this episode using everything that he knows about his own character, including his pride, temperance, and his strong sense of morality. The days of Finn feeling sorely bad for himself are over, and he’s able to know himself better through self evaluation, and the evaluation of Ice Finn. Through this effective transformation of character, Finn helps validate his alternate self, and his own self in the process. Finn knows who he is, and that is unquestionably being a devoted hero.

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Of course, Jake’s along for the ride as well, and provides some great comic relief in response to some of the heavier, and headier, business going on within the actual story. While Finn has to deal with the inner workings of the mind of his alternate self, Jake is merely faced with a completely evil alternate version of himself that isn’t down to go through the same type of self evaluation. It wouldn’t be a completely terrific Jake appearance without his absolute devotion to his brother as well, which is fully emphasized here. Whether it be his cute “I love you,” to Finn as they almost bite it, or his courage to take on the fucking Lich for Christ’s sakes, is just great. Jake really will go the full mile for his brother, even when there’s opportunities for the two of them to safely go about finding a solution, as shown in the beginning. Jake has likely killed hundreds of baddies before, but none that looked as hauntingly similar to his own bro. And it’s the last thing that Jake would want to involve himself in.

After so many sporadic appearances in the series, I expected to kind of be nonplussed by the Lich, but Ron Perlman once again distills just the amount of solemn horror into his voice. It is hilarious to see how immune Finn and Jake are to the Lich by this point in the series. Of course, the Lich is still the big bad, and could kill any character he wants at any point, but there’s something so distinctly hilarious about Finn looking death right in the face and saying, “oh boy, here we go…” Of course, they’re terrified by him, but they’re pretty much prepared for this kind of situation by this point. They’ve been through it a handful of times before, and by now, Finn probably realizes that, though it’ll be tough, they’ll get through it again. However, I’ll reinforce that this in no way undermines the Lich’s role as a threat in this one. Despite the ultra silly way his head is placed on Jake’s body (which actually makes him even MORE threatening) Perlman’s monologue about how everyone in every multiverse will die once again hits home. As Jake said to Ice Finn earlier, “come on dude, he’s not even trying to hide [his evil]!” the Lich doesn’t even try to mask his true intentions to Ice Finn after he gets what he wants. The Lich has no need for allies or partners: once he obtains the ability to cause death everywhere possible, he has all of the power in the world to do so. He’d even kill Jake, if it wasn’t for Finn’s handy-dandy thorn arm. Once again, the thorn arm returns, this time actually having a role in battle. As proven in episodes like Billy’s Bucket List, The Comet, and Checkmate, the grass curse only effectively activates when Finn is powerless and consumed by his inability to help a situation. I do wonder if some form of level of anxiety within Finn’s system is what triggers the grass sword to act upon itself. It’s probably not important, but it’d be rad to actually have an episode where Finn attempts to control the power of the grass arm. I’d be lying if I didn’t pan out the possibility of that entire episode in my head. Maybe I’ll write incorporate it into fanfiction someday. Hm.

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After the Lich’s arm is chopped off into multiple dimensions (of which will be explored later!) the episode dissolves into one big, frenzy-filled sequence where Jake helplessly tries to fight off the Lich, and Finn attempts to reasons with his counterpart. Again, the pacing in this one is terrific. It speeds up all of the action-packed sequences to make them feel more tense and relentless, while slowing down the more character driven moments, as I just mentioned. The interactions between Finn and Ice Finn are really touching and telling (apparently Finn has a birthmark of a “flaming sideways teardrop,” or essentially, a comet. Nice touch there, Alden). These interactions are ultimately what leads the boys to working together with “The Maid,” which is one of my absolute favorite weapons in the series. That little “housekeeping!” that goes off when activated is priceless.

That help that Finn begins to offer is unfortunately cut short, but luckily, Prismo’s an expert with Adobe Premiere and patches the whole thing up. Of course, it’s one big reference to the fact that the ice crown was accidentally shown to still be on Simon’s head in Jake the Dog, but I’ve seen a couple different complaints of people who thought this was somewhat of a deus ex machina and that Prismo shouldn’t really possess the power to interfere with other universes. Honestly, I didn’t mind it at all because 1. It’s funny. 2. It’s at the command of the wish bearer himself and the being that granted the wish. Prismo could theoretically just let Finn sit with the wish that he made, but he isn’t a dick. Prismo would rather help the dude who saved his life than to let someone endlessly suffer for the rest of eternity. Though Finn helps his alternate self, the only thing that’s possibly more painful for Finn than Ice Finn suffering is the fact that he has a really good family life outside of everything. Finn has never met his mom, and had previously spent an entire year dealing with the fact that his dad is a legitimately shitty person. Though Finn has a home with Jake and BMO and the other treehouse boys, he’s still stuck with the sad reminder that he has no caring birth parents to rely on. It’s the perfect quiet ending to cap off an otherwise intense episode, and one that opens up Finn’s longing for more possibilities in the future.

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On a visual aspect, this episode is just gorgeous. Aside from Evergreen, this may be the best looking episode to date. The subdued blues and whites of the iced-up Farmworld are pleasant and somewhat calming, so when the brighter yellows and greens arise during the Lich’s arrival, it really adds a dark and foreboding feeling, even if the contrasting colors are saying the opposite. The landscape in general is really awesome, feeling like an even bleaker and less welcoming Ice Kingdom. In addition to that, Finn and Jake looking fucking rad in those snow jackets. No kidding, I would pay good money for a vinyl figure of Finn in that jacket with his Finn Sword. Get on it, Kidrobot!

Other small things I liked about this one: hearing Lou Ferrigno’s one final time in the series as Bobby, the return of the Enchiridion and the fact that it actually has a unique, different design on the cover, the boys’ random Tree Fort activities at the beginning of the episode, the return of the talking Finn Sword, and the allusions to Finn getting better at playing the flute ACTUALLY having a role in future episodes. It’s always been a headcanon of mine that Finn subconsciously picked up the last name “Mertens” from his experiences within the Farmworld.

Crossover is just an overall delight. Sam Alden and Jesse Moynihan make for terrific boarding team this season; Moynihan is still able to pull off some crazy, off-the-walls stories like this, but is more grounded with Alden’s guidance. It’s a fast-paced, fun, exhilarating journey that really kicks off a series of terrific episodes spanning across the entire rest of the season. In particular, my favorite of season seven is coming up next.

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Favorite line: “Are you bein’ stupid on purpose?”

 

“Checkmate” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Checkmate is likely my least favorite episode of the Stakes miniseries. I don’t think the story behind it is completely awful; I actually like the Vampire King’s decision to de-vamp himself because he strictly wants to change up the status quo of the world and alter the destiny that has been predetermined for him. He even gives a neat little speech about it, which reeks of Moynihan headiness. But by God, so much of Checkmate feels like mere plodding. About 3/4ths of the episode revolves around the main characters deciding on whether or not they should stake the Vampire King, even though he is clearly surrendering himself and does not want to fight. It would be alright if this was presented as an actual thought-provoking dilemma: whether or not a person can change, or if they should even be allowed to change. But Checkmate would rather focus on the gang being as goofy and comically useless as possible.

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My criticisms and compliments towards each episode in this miniseries are becoming a bit redundant by this point, so I’ll sum up what I’ve already talked about in the past couple reviews relatively quickly and then get into the newer stuff:

Peppermint Butler continues to be the best aspect of these episodes, as his absolute adoration for the Vampire King is both kind of cute and also hilariously disturbing. I love his little back-and-forth with himself on whether or not he should actually be so excited to see a person of the Vampire King’s nature, and his absolute psychological freakout when he finally does encounter the VK is priceless. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I will never get tired of Steve Little’s up-pitched voice.

Finn and Jake continue to be useless in this episode, and this is probably the worst example thus far. Finn getting in the middle of Marceline and Vampire King’s fight was more random and goofy than anything. Because, ya know, that book that Finn mentions that he never even read must have come in handy for advice a good three years after it was demolished completely. Also, this is likely the boys at their most incompetent. I enjoyed Finn thinking that his grass thorn would activate by a simple battle cry (though, the thorn senses that he isn’t actually in any danger), but him really thinking that lightly kicking VK in the groin would hurt him and shouting “stake you!” makes him seem like he’s not even really trying. You had the past two episodes, where the threats felt legitimate and taxing on the main characters involved, and here it feels like there aren’t any stakes at all. No pun intended. In addition to that, we had the painfully unfunny “fart code” sequence which once again feels like a half-assed attempt at understanding the silliness between Finn and Jake’s relationship between each other, but fails pretty badly. Moynihan went from writing Finn at his most mature to being the writer that portrays him at his absolute most childish. And hey, since you kids at home loved the “bacon pancakes” song so much a few years back, Finn sings his own version “makin’ stake-a’s” in this episode!! Seriously, I hate any instances that feel as though the show is directly pandering to the AT audience of whom only know or care about “bacon pancakes”, the buff baby song, or Bubbline.

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Going back to my earlier complaints, I think the VK’s issue could have been way more well-represented if he wasn’t interrupted by people trying to stake him every five seconds. Nearly every attempt at humor in this episode is just the various wacky ways the characters are trying to stake the VK while he remains completely unwilling to fight. It gets old really fast and puts me in a mood where I just want everyone to shut the fuck up and to hear the guy out. He has legitimately insightful stuff to throw down, but he’s only able to get a word in after everyone around him stops trying to attack or stake him. I mean, PB’s technology was able to resist Empress from moving in the previous episode, couldn’t she have just restrained the VK and then interrogated him that way? I don’t think the characters are necessarily wrong for not trusting him, but it gets frustrating when it’s pretty obvious to the audience that he’s being truthful, while the typically rational characters that we love come off as bigger annoyances than the guy who is supposed to be the villain. And even then, VK suffers from his own quirky moments that seem completely out of place. I was really getting into his speech, and then he loses entirely me when he’s portrayed to be a complete baby who pouts in his underwear, and is left to be nothing but a comedic foil for the rest of the episode. It’s a shame, because I feel like the Vampire King ends up being my least favorite of the vampires, simply because he ends up being the most complex, yet the most shallow vamp at the same time. This episode elaborates on his desire to change the world around him and the pathway that is presented to him… but that’s kind of it. He’s supposed to be presented as this big important figure, but they kind of neglected to give me a reason to actually be interested or invested in him as a person. All of the other vamps are equipped with strong personalities and charisma, while Vampire King exhibits practically none of that in his one star episode.

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Annnd, after everything that happens with the Vampire King, we’re left with a mere transition into the next episode, as the “vamp juice” explodes into epic proportions and forms into a cloud monster seeking destruction. VK turning into a lion was… interesting, I suppose? It’s an idea that I still kind of struggle to wrap my head around completely… like, how did the vampire essence within him cause himself to mutate and become humanized so intensely? It doesn’t really make sense to me, but I usually just end up brushing it off.

But yeah, Checkmate is a pretty low point for me in this miniseries. It really emphasizes a lot of overarching issues, and introduces some new ones as well. A concept and character that should have been really interesting and significant ends up feeling like an unfunny slump. It isn’t entirely without its moments; I liked Jake’s brief exchange with Pepbut at the beginning and Marcy’s first meal in forever was a nice little bit. And, as I said, parts of Vampire King’s speech were really neat. But other than that, Checkmate is mostly just frustrating.

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Favorite line: “I am a king, not a hamster. My path runs straight into the void, on a sick, flaming chariot!”

“Take Her Back” Review

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Original Airdate: November 18, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

The Moon is likely my second favorite of the vamps, behind Hierophant. She doesn’t benefit from a particularly strong personality, but her design, intimidating nature, and her unique abilities are really what help her to create a strong presence. And, like the other vampires, a lot of the success of Take Her Back comes from the atmosphere and tension built around her presence. It’s also the first episode of the miniseries that incorporates PB’s slow transition into regaining her kingdom back once more, which a lot of people weren’t a fan of, but I thought was quite nice. It’s cool how PB’s desire to stick by Marcy’s side and to put someone else before herself and her kingdom directly ties back into her development when it comes to being a more caring and courteous ruler overall. The only part I didn’t like about this transition was that we get to see less of the King of Ooo, though we at least get to enjoy some more of him in this episode before his time is up.

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The dream sequence in the beginning is pretty poignant and features a nice melody to carry it through. I think the dream itself pretty apparently focuses on what Marceline’s life would be like if there had been no Mushroom War and if the crown had never come into Simon and Betty’s lives. It is sad to think that this is likely Marceline’s idea of true bliss, even though she herself has never even experienced this type of reality. It’s a nice moment that highlights Marceline’s subconscious desires and what represents her concept of perfection. Of course, it’s all ruined by the burp bros: Finn & Jake. Take Her Back marks a sad transformation for Finn and Jake from two side characters who didn’t do much (aside from Jake’s role in the past episode) to actual annoyances within the Stakes miniseries. I’m not gonna pretentiously act as if fart and burp humor is the absolute worse thing to grace this Earth, because this is far from the first time Adventure Time would dabble in these types of gags. But the next three episode REALLY seem to emphasize that Finn and Jake are two goofy guys who love to fart and burp and to be as gross as possible. The way its incorporated in the story doesn’t even make sense. Finn and Jake burp on Marceline to help cure her because that’s what Joshua and Margaret would do when they were babies? But then Bubblegum tells them that their parents were just being assholes, so there you have it. Joshua and Margaret were shitty parents who enjoyed burping on their kids for their own benefit. Don’tcha just love these bits of lore into Finn and Jake’s backstory? The burps that emit from their body are especially gross as well. It’s pretty obvious to me that these are stock burp sound effects, but some of the audio clips that are used are especially off-putting and kind of disgusting.

So, that goes on for a bit, until PB mentions hubris to the clueless boys (even though Finn literally uses the word himself in The Other Tarts) as she begins to get emotional over the fact that her de-vamping machine ended up causing all sorts of nearly unfixable issues. The emotional moments in general don’t really hit home for me at all, but I was really amused by LSP berating the fuck out of Bubblegum. Something about LSP’s comedic timing in the past two episodes has been really on point, and once again, I enjoy how she actually wants to continue helping even after everyone separates. It’s nice to see her strive to be proactive for once, even if her help isn’t necessary to the grand scheme of things. I also liked Peppermint Butler’s mention of how he poisons himself on purpose for research, as he continues to be the best part of this miniseries, and only reinforces my belief by the end of this episode.

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It is funny to rewatch this episode and listen closely to PB’s words, which clearly can be interpreted as “stake her back,” and provides for a really amusing thematic gag throughout the episode. I enjoyed F&J a bit more as they embarked on their journey to stake The Moon, and it was really neat getting a closer look at her various powers. It did lead for some intrigue regarding how she would actually be defeated in the end, which seems like a relatively impossible feat. But, in Finn’s head, staking her different ways for several hours might just do the trick.

On the other side of things, the King of Ooo hanging Crunchy up on his mantle was hilarious. I love Crunchy’s blank, sad glance as he’s being restrained against his will. Not only does KOO get funnier, but also even more sadistic with each appearance. It’s also a pretty nice “fuck yeah” moment for PB as she kicks her adversary to the ground while shouting “monarchies are not democracies!” and it seems apparent that the Banana Guards have literally no idea what voting KOO into office actually meant. It was amusing how they asked her permission on whether they should arrest her or not, as it’s clear that they still obey her over anyone.

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The visual appeal of this miniseries returns once again with a gorgeous conversion from sunset into nighttime, as F&J deal with the worst possible scenario when finally realizing what PB actually meant. The chase scene is a lot of fun, and nice to see that even though Jake previously faced his fear of vamps in the past episode, he isn’t completely past his phobia of bloodsuckers. Again, The Moon proves to be frightening in just how ambiguous her motivation and nature is. The reveal of her demonic voice and detailed facial features only added to her uncanny state of being. The implication that she gathers power from the actual moon was a helpful sentiment in showing how she goes from a calm, non-active vamp to an absolute terror. Jake’s reactions were pretty hilarious as well, which can be attributed to John DiMaggio’s terrific inflections.

I thought Peppermint Butler’s method of healing Marceline was just a bit underwhelming, considering that Pepbut in general always has something really bizarre up his sleeve in terms of black magic, and we never get to see if this healing ritual even has any effect. So it kind of feels like padding more than anything, especially with moments like the Banana Guards’ back and forth about a yoga video (game). I did think that the moment between the Banana Guards and PB was sweet, coming back to the idea that they probably never realized that they would lose their mom all together to begin with.

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The Moon’s power of paralyzing her victims came off a bit odd to me, just because of the fact that Marceline herself has never possessed such a power, but I suppose it could be interpreted as a unique ability that The Moon is able to possess through lunar power. We’re then treated to another dream sequence which revolves around an older Marceline spending time with Bubblegum in the far future, as PB herself remains the same age, though Marcy is left as an old, nearly-deaf woman. This one represents her fears of eventually dying off before her friends, which she has yet to experience in her entire lifespan. Despite her desire to change, the thought of being outlived by her best friend likely never dawned on Marceline, until it was explored within her subconscious. Thus we have the first dream, which revolves around Marceline’s concept of what could have been, and then the second dream, which focuses on what could be in the future. Both dreams touch heavily on Marceline’s feelings of loss and desperation and are nice additions to her virtually empty role in the episode.

Probably the most energetic moment for myself in this episode is when Peppermint Butler gets his grand moment of victory by literally “staking her (The Moon’s) back.” Again, it’s so nice for Pepbut to possess such a major role in the story and be something more than just a subservient side character. Which is more than I could say for our boys, who ended up once again being on the back-burner. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But in the end, Take Her Back is pretty good one. Like some of the other Stakes entries, the best aspect of this episode is its atmosphere surrounding the vamp of the week. The Moon is a really badass villain with a creepy voice, nice design, and equally threatening abilities. There’s more than a few flaws in this one that once again tie back into some of the overarching issues I have with Stakes in general, but the episode provides enough delightful energy in its frantically paced story and tense dilemma that I still leave Take Her Back feeling mostly positive regardless.

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Favorite line: “Don’t believe in yourself so much then, dum-dum!”

 

“Marceline the Vampire Queen” Review

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Original Airdate: November 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Stakes time, baby! Just as a heads up for y’all, I will not be analyzing the entire miniseries as a whole until I cover each individual episode of Stakes. Though they all follow a linear story, each episode of Stakes has its own identity and purpose, and I think it’s important that they’re discussed separately. Hell, that’s one of the main reason I started up this blog; I grew very sick and tired of seeing reviews that only discussed the actual quality of the miniseries as a whole without looking at what each episode (which were all worked on by different writers and storyboard artists) had to offer. So, let’s get started with Marceline the Vampire Queen!

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This one’s mostly set-up, as one would and should expect from a series of connected episodes as such. As far as set-up goes, I think it accomplishes much of what the miniseries would later expand upon, including the nature of vampirism, how it affects Marceline, and what conflicts face our main heroes as they embark on their journey. Granted, I think this one holds up a bit less on its own than when I first watched it. Considering that the terrific Everything Stays follows it, most of my positive feelings that reflected that half-hour seem to be in regards to the latter half. That’s not to say that Marceline the Vampire Queen is without its moments. There are some especially funny moments, along with a decent portion of nicely drawn and well-animated sequences. My issue with this one is that it seems a bit tonally dissonant in some areas; one of my main critiques of the miniseries as a whole is that it can try to be a bit too jokey and quirky in some areas where it isn’t really warranted. I feel as though many of these episodes are constantly trying to throw out jokes every five seconds, and it usually results in a mixed bag of really funny moments, and a handful of unfunny bits. Marceline the Vampire Queen is very much similar, in that it wants to be taken seriously, but also wants to entertain its audience, which is a trademark of Adventure Time in general. But it partially feels a bit forced in some areas, and I’ll try to explain what I mean as much as possible.

First, I do like how the beginning of this episode plays out. Marceline struggling to reach her umbrella as she seeks refuge under a shady tree is a great way of framing Marcy’s pain and struggling in her current state. I initially thought the premise of the miniseries in general was kind of weird, considering that we never really saw Marceline struggle with any in depth, personal issues regarding her curse, but I think Marceline the Vampire Queen does a pretty decent job of explaining it. I quite enjoy Marcy’s interactions with Bubblegum, and how she describes her vampirism as a constant reminder of her messed up past and how she’s unable to completely move on from it. Though her inability to expose herself to the sun is primarily what kickstarts these feelings, it’s nice that Marcy describes an underlying and deeper source to her issues that has been plaguing her for some time. After 1,000+ years of being a vampire, the stagnation weighing down Marcy’s life seems like it would surely take a toll on her mental health, considering that no matter what she has done before, she can never move on from the disability that constantly surrounds her. While it’s hard to relate to actual vampirism, it can easily be substituted for any other mental illness in the book, and how many people feel that same bit of stagnation through the threatening mindgames they face each day.

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The interactions between PB and Marcy when it comes to the operation sequence are mildly funny in how they subvert pandering to any diehard Bubbline fans, but again, I thought PB’s apathetic nature did kind of squander the importance of the procedure. Granted, I love PB’s moments of not understanding how to interact emotionally with other characters, but this is the one time I would actually like for the two gals to have an honest and direct conversation with each other. It’s funny, because Ako Castuera returned to the writing staff for this episode, and I think her method of writing for Marceline and PB suffers from the same issues that Castuera’s previous Marcy-PB centric episode, Sky Witch, had. While Castuera seems to have no problem writing for Princess Bubblegum individually, I think the way she depicts the relationship between the two girls is especially hollow to the point where it seems like PB doesn’t given a fuck about anything going on around her. I don’t think the gals need to be lovey-dovey and kiss up to each other all the time, but I feel as though such a moment deserves for something a bit more earnest and compassionate.

While I mostly like Finn and Jake’s roles in the episode, I feel like Jake suffers from being way too over-the-top in the beginning. I don’t even hate his role as bad cop, but I think it’s somewhat squandered by the fact that Jake quickly gives up this role and ends up being just as caring and supporting as Finn in the blink of an eye. Obviously he wanted to help his friend in her time of need, but I felt the shift from “let’s go arrest Marceline right this minute because she’s obviously guilty” to “let’s help out our friend Marceline because she’s having personal problems” was way too abrupt. That being said, I did like the interactions between Marceline and Finn, and how Marcy herself isn’t even sure of what may have happened to herself or others.

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There’s a big presence with side characters in this one, mainly the fat villagers and their leader Cloud Dance. Cloud Dance has a few funny lines revolving around his cows and how they were affected by the vampire bites, though I think the character in general is slightly unremarkable in his voice, personality, and design. He’s portrayed by Kyle Kinane, who I actually had never heard of prior to this episode, though is apparently a voice actor and a comedian. While I’ve never seen Kinane’s work elsewhere, Cloud Dance isn’t really provided humorous dialogue as it is, aside from the moment I mentioned earlier. His character is pretty insignificant, and one I usually tend to forget.

The following nighttime scenes are probably my favorite bits of the episode. Though I’m not really a fan of Marceline’s “arthritis dance” (any attempt to make Marceline a quirky or silly character never really comes off as convincing) the moments Finn and Jake share are both funny and somewhat tense. I love Jake’s ignorant fear of vampires coming into fruition once more, as John DiMaggio puts absolutely all of his energy into Jake’s character. The shots within the cave are eerie and off-putting in the best way possible, with tons of different grotesque and nicely detailed animals scattered throughout. It is strange to see a whole assortment of random, non-speaking animals (has there ever been a normal dog in the series before this point?) but I’m willing to forgive it because every creature depicted looks fantastic.

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The episode comes to a pretty enticing conclusion; clearly we know Marceline isn’t going to explode, but the way it’s framed, as Finn tries to literally beat the sunrise, is really cool and builds a good amount of hype for the next episode.

Marceline the Vampire Queen does everything it should to set-up for the next handful of episodes, but I think my main problem is just with the tonal shifts and dialogue. Adventure Time has always been good at balancing out drama and comedy, but I almost feel as though this one is trying to forcibly be humorous every chance it gets, even when it means getting in the way of having genuine character moments. This is actually a problem I would end up having with the miniseries and several other episodes within it as a whole, but as is, it is a decently fun start to a mostly fun miniseries.

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Favorite line: “That’s cool, you guys, but clean this mess also, you bums!”